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Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Columbia U. Middle East Professor Censored by NYC

Prof. Rashid Khalidi's website

N.Y. School Board bans controversial Arab professor

Forward, 24 February 2005.

Rashid Khalidi Posted by Hello

A pro-Palestinian professor at Columbia University,
hailed by some Jewish students as a model instructor,
is being barred by the New York City Department of
Education from lecturing public school teachers.

A spokesman for the school board attributed the move
against Rashid Khalidi, the Arab-American director of
Columbia's Middle East Institute, to "past statements"
on the Middle East. Khalidi "should not have been
included" in a 12-week course for public school
teachers on teaching about the Middle East -- and "he
won't be participating in the future," the spokesman

The school board's decision was praised by some New
York lawmakers with ties to the Jewish community, as
well as by the American Jewish Committee. A number of
other organizations and individuals, however, including
Columbia University and the American Jewish Congress,
have questioned the school board's decision.

The school board's decision appeared to be taken in
reaction to an article in The New York Sun, which
pointed to Khalidi's participation in the program and
wrote that Khalidi had "called Israel a 'racist' state
with an 'apartheid system.'"

Khalidi and his supporters reject that characterization
of his views. Free speech experts have said that
whatever Khalidi's political opinions, the school board
may have violated his constitutional rights.

"They made a mistake in saying he can't teach because
of his political views," said Nat Hentoff, a journalist
and free-speech expert. Hentoff has been a strong
supporter of Jewish students at Columbia who have
alleged that they have been subject to intimidation by
several Middle East studies professors. "That is a
clear violation of his free-speech rights, and his
academic freedom rights."

With the concerns the school board had, Hentoff said,
"The school board should have brought in a team teacher
for the course so that it wouldn't be one-sided
The barring of Khalidi is the latest development to
result from the uproar at Columbia over the student
accusations. Although Khalidi has not been accused of
any wrongdoing by the students, he has occupied a
central position in press reports on the conflict. Many
mention that his chair at Columbia was endowed with a
gift from the United Arab Emirates and named after late
Palestinian intellectual leader Edward Said, and that
he once worked as an adviser to the Palestinian
Liberation Organization.

During the turmoil at Columbia, Khalidi has been held
up as a model teacher by some of the pro-Israel
students who have complained about other Middle Eastern
studies professors.

In a guide to university courses compiled by Columbia
students, known as CULPA (Columbia Underground Listing
of Professor Ability), Khalidi's teaching received a
silver nugget, the second-highest award after the gold
nugget, and one reviewer said, "Not one divisive issue
was polemicized."

The enrichment course that Khalidi was barred from
taking part in is a 12-week program with a different
Columbia professor talking about a different aspect of
the Middle East each week. The course is organized by
the school district, but the professors are paid by
Columbia University as part of their community
outreach. A spokeswoman for Columbia, Susan Brown,
criticized the school board's decision. "The fact that
a respected professor and scholar would be summarily
judged and dismissed, without consultation or
discussion with him, or with us, is an issue of great

This was Khalidi's second year taking part in the
program, and he had given his contribution this year.
On February 3, in the first lecture of the teacher-
training course, Khalidi provided an overview of the
geography and demography of the region. According to
the teacher who organized the course and was present at
the lecture, Khalidi's talk did not touch on any
sensitive material.

"I am not unaware of the controversy surrounding him,"
said Mark Wilner, assistant principal for social
studies at Brooklyn's Midwood High School, who also
organizes a teacher enrichment course on the Holocaust.
"But I can tell that his session was completely
apolitical. It was basically geographic information."

The school board's decision was immediately hailed last
week by New York mayoral candidate Rep. Anthony Wiener
and by the American Jewish Committee, which issued a
press release saying that Khalidi should not have been
offered the platform given his "record of brazen,
openly biased and distorted statements about Israel."

When asked what statements of Khalidi's had been
problematic, David Harris, executive director of the
American Jewish Committee, declined to point to any
specific statements and said that the problem was
"where he stands on Arab-Israeli issues."

Wiener, when asked to identify objectionable
statements, said, "I am by no means an expert on the
guy's work, but what I have seen anecdotally on the guy
is troubling." The director of legal affairs at the
American Jewish Congress, Marc Stern, said he did not
agree with the tack chosen by these communal leaders
and political officials. "It's not as if we're
rejoicing that Khalidi gets an audience," Stern said.
"But we don't think the way to go about it is by
treating Khalidi as if he is not qualified to teach on
the Middle East."

Greg Lukianoff, a constitutional lawyer for the group
Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, which
has stood squarely with the Jewish students in the
Columbia melee, said that "the department was under no
obligation to hire him in the first place." But,
Lukianoff said, "rescinding the invite after the fact
does send a bad message."

Khalidi said he has not decided how to respond.
The problem with the whole debate that has sprung up
around Middle Eastern studies, Khalidi said, is that it
has taken professors' views on Israel and used them to
critique their entire body of scholarship.

"The Middle East is not the Israel-Palestine conflict,"
Khalidi said. "It's five millennia of history, and
nearly 400 million people. People need to raise their
noses from this tiny little spot."

The drumbeat against Khalidi has been increasing in a
handful of newspapers since the dispute at Columbia
broke out last October. In November, The New York Daily
News profiled Khalidi in an article titled, "Vile Words
of Hate That Shame Top University," and The New York
Sun compared him to Nation of Islam leader Louis
Farrakhan, whose views have been condemned widely as

The Sun published a column last year by Martin Kramer,
a leader in a campaign against pro-Palestinian
professors, in which he slammed Khalidi for warning
Arab intellectuals against participating in events
organized by the Washington Institute for Near East
Policy, a think tank supported heavily by pro-Israel
donors and now run by former U.S. Middle East envoy
Dennis Ross.

"It's basic function is to spread lies and falsehoods
about the Arab world, of course under an academic,
scholarly veneer," Khalidi was quoted as saying during
a panel discussion broadcast on Al-Jazeera. "Basically,
this is the most important Zionist propaganda tool in
the United States."

The Sun has repeatedly pointed to Khalidi's use of the
words "racist" and "apartheid" in relation to Israel.
It is this characterization, Khalidi said, that most
piques his anger.

"Everything that has been said has misrepresented the
entirety of my work," said Khalidi, who specializes in
Arab nationalism, the early 20th-century history of the
Middle East and great power politics.

On the issue of whether Israel is racist, Khalidi says
there are "scholars who will not talk about these
things without using the word 'racist,' but I am not
one of them." He said, "I do not think Zionism is
racist. When we talk about some of the contemporary
laws, there are policies that I consider racist and

Khalidi was at the front of an early group of
Palestinian intellectuals calling for a two-state
solution in the Middle East, though he has suggested
recently that Israeli settlement expansion has made
such a plan impossible.

He has defended the right of Palestinians to launch
attacks against Israeli soldiers in the territories,
but condemned Palestinian suicide bombings against
Israeli civilians as "war crimes."

Many who are familiar with his politics said he is not
the extremist that he has been made out to be in press

"He is about as virulently anti-Israel as the Likudniks
are anti-Arab," said Arthur Hertzberg, who jointly
taught a course on Zionism and Palestinian national
identity with Khalidi when he was a professor at
Columbia. "Have we decided that we are going to throw
all the Likudniks out of public life?"

"My Arab students never tried to shut me up when I was
teaching Zionism at Columbia," Hertzberg said. "We
ought to be ready to brook disagreements."

Included by permission of Forward. Voices © 2005, IPA,
all rights reserved.


Subject: [News] McCarthyite/Pro-Israel Conference
attacks pro Palestine profs

The attacks on progressive professors goes way beyond
Ward Churchill!

Campus & Citywide Speakout: AGAINST RACISM AND THE NEW

Organised by: Stop McCarthyism at Columbia (SMAC)

When: Sunday, March 6th -1pm
Where: Columbia Univ., 116th & B'way,
sundial located on college walk
For more info: contact_smac@yahoo.com

Join SMAC to defend free speech. Recently, professors
at Columbia University have been the target of a
politically motivated intimidation campaign by right-
wing pro-Israel groups like Scholars for Peace in the
Middle East. Now these same groups are hosting a day-
long conference at Columbia with some of the most
viciously racist, anti-Arab propagandists as guest

These include the likes of Martin Kramer, co-founder of
Campus Watch, a website designed to blacklist academics
critical of Israeli and American policies. Also
speaking is Harvard professor, Alan Dershowitz, who is
well-known for advocating torture. Charles Jacobs,
founder of the David Project, will also be there. The
Project, which targets professors sympathetic to
Palestinian human rights, is responsible for funding
Columbia Unbecoming, a filmed collection of
unsubstantiated claims against Columbia professors.

This is the new McCarthyism. Already, Professor Rashid
Khalidi, has been fired from his position at an NYC
Teacher Training Program for criticising Israel's
occupation and racist stance towards Palestinians. This
is part of a larger national campaign to silence
critics of US and Israeli policies in the Middle East.

Free speech is not intimidation. Dissent is not
intimidation. Threatening professors for exercising
their rights, is. It's wrong to scapegoat Arabs,
Muslims, and South Asians. Join us to defend our
professors and speak out against the racist message of
this conference.

Organised by Stop McCarthyism at Columbia (SMAC)
Stop McCarthyism at Columbia (SMAC) Statement

Recently, professors at Columbia University, in
particular professors at the Middle East and Asian
Languages and Cultures Department (MEALAC), have been
the target of a politically motivated intimidation
campaign. These attacks were sparked by the limited
release of Columbia Unbecoming, a filmed collection of
unsubstantiated claims against professors sympathetic
to Palestinian human rights. The film is funded by the
David Project, an initiative founded in 2002 to silence
thoughtful criticism of Zionism and Israeli policy, and
to squelch dissent. The film systematically excludes a
broad range of views and the perspectives of many
satisfied Columbia students ­Jewish and non-Jewish

Columbia University President Lee Bollinger has bowed
to external political pressure from media, outside pro-
Israel lobby groups and local elected officials. His
office is now heading an investigation of targeted
professors. The New York City Council has warned that
if the University investigation "comes up dry", they
will launch their own investigation. As a result of the
negative publicity, one of the most targeted faculty,
Professor Joseph Massad, will not be teaching his
signature course, Israeli and Palestinian Societies and
Cultures, this Spring. Other professors sympathetic to
Palestinian human rights who not were specifically
targeted by Columbia Unbecoming are nonetheless
suffering from this vicious campaign. For instance,
eminent historian and Professor Rashid Khalidi,
director of the Middle East Institute at Columbia, was
recently fired from the New York City Teacher Training
Program on Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Development, a
volunteer position he has held for years.

Though the David Project claims political balance,
Columbia Unbecoming is a patchwork of incoherent,
uncorroborated accusations. The Project itself is part
of a larger campaign against critics of the US and
Israel and their roles in the Middle East. This
campaign includes groups like Campus Watch and Scholars
for Peace in the Middle East as well as propagandists
such as Martin Kramer and Daniel Pipes. A major
strategy of these groups and individuals is to equate
criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism, and to use this
charge to silence critical voices. Indeed, the US
government is now considering legislation, HR 3077,
that will increase monitoring of Middle East studies
programs in order to silence critique. These acts draw
from the general rise in discrimination against Arabs,
Muslims, and South Asians within the context of US
militarism. This is the new McCarthyism. Columbia
University is not immune to this climate.

In this time of war and increased repression, we
express our concern for the broader implications and
negative precedent that these unwarranted
investigations are likely to set. For instance, tenured
professor, Ward Churchill, was recently compelled to
resign from the chairmanship of his department at the
University of Colorado for his political views.

We affirm the right of all professors and students to
voice their opinions and dissent, and condemn all forms
of discrimination including anti-Semitism, anti-Arab
racism and Islamophobia.

Therefore, we demand that,

* Columbia University defend its faculty and
immediately drop its baseless and unjust investigation
of the professors under attack. Criticism of Israel is
not intimidation.
* The University issue a public apology for failing to
defend the right of these professors to free and
dissenting speech
* The University, furthermore, issue an affirmative
statement that such attacks and dishonest tactics are
simply unacceptable
* The New York City Council immediately withdraw its
proposed investigation of the attacked professors.